TITLE, Year, Director, GG, Time, IMDB, Rating
Strange Impersonation†, 1946, Anthony Mann,, 68, 21, 6.4
Anthony Mann plays fast, loose with early noir conventions
bmacv 2 March 2002
Heralded noir director Anthony Mann made his name in legendary collaborations with cinematographer John Alton (T-Men, Raw Deal, Border Incident). But his work in the cycle started earlier when it was still coalescing--before its essentials had become codified.
A 1945 Republic release (under an old, pre-eagle logo), Strange Impersonation comes in a compact package holding a lot of plot -- perhaps too much. Pharmaceutical chemist Brenda Marshall, anxious to test a new anesthetic she devised, goes home to do so. [On the way, however, she gets into an unpleasant traffic scrape involving a tipsy woman and an ambulance-chaser.] Finally ensconced in her luxurious penthouse, she injects herself and goes under, only to wake in hospital, suffering disfiguring burns from an explosion and fire among her bottles and beakers.
The next year proves to be no picnic. During her convalescence, her rich fiancé (who owns the drug company) drops her like a hot brick. She accidentally murders the accident victim--see above--who has resurfaces with both a gun and a blackmail scheme. On the lam, Marshall assumes a new identity and buys a swell new face through reconstructive surgery. Then she returns to her old firm with a notion of settling scores.
Cheeky, and with the courage of its conventions, Strange Impersonation draws us in by rapid and unexpected changes in its course. Marshall holds an especially strong hand as the brainy victim of outrageous fortune, and plays her cards well. But she's almost matched by Hillary Brooke as her duplicitous assistant/rival. William Gargan (later to become TV's first Martin Kane, Private Eye) remains no more than a plot point as the duped fiancé.
Mann plays fast and loose with themes and gimmicks that were to become staple ingredients later in the noir cycle, as if trying them on for size. There are elements here that recall or prefigure movies such as The Woman in the Window, Dark Passage, A Stolen Face and No Man of Her Own, to name just a few. And if they're not worked out with the ruthlessness of vision that was to shape the finest film noir, no matter. Strange Impersonation is a swift, dark funhouse ride.
Specter of the Rose, 1946, Ben Hecht,, 90, 21, 6.0
Ben Hecht's gruesome folly of a movie, set in the world of "the dance"
bmacv 14 September 2002
Whatever unfulfilled ambitions drove Ben Hecht to write, produce and direct Spectre of the Rose, it's charitable to pretend they bore scant relation to the gruesome folly that eventuated. Did Hollywood's most prolific uncredited contributor to great screenplays crave the glory that would come with his very own Citizen Kane? If so, he made choices that can only be accounted as bizarre.
First, he set his story in the world of `the dance.' Since of all the arts, ballet, for Americans at any rate, reeks of the rarefied, the elite, movies about it invariably lapse into gaseous talk about “aaht.” Spectre of the Rose dives right into this pitfall. The high-flown, portentous dialogue must have entranced Hecht but it plainly baffles his cast. They variously give it stilted readings, flat it out, and drop quotation marks around it, but except for Judith Anderson--as an old assoluta now training novices in a dingy studio--nobody can make it work. (But then, she made Lady Scarface work.)
The plot concerns a deranged male superstar called Sanine (Ivan Kirov), who may have murdered his first wife and partner and now seems to be rehearsing to kill his second (Viola Essen). It's safe to presume Kirov was engaged only to fling his polished torso around because he can't even act embarrassed; it's no surprise that this is his solitary screen credit.
But his murderous madness just sits there, with a take-it-or-leave-it shrug, while the movie pirouettes off on other tangents. There's a larcenous impresario (Michael Chekhov) who outdoes even Clifton Webb in trying to break down the celluloid closet's door. Most puzzlingly, there's Lionel Stander as a Runyonesque poet who seems intended as some sort of Greek chorus to the goings-on but serves instead as a major irritant, uninvited and out of place.
Without knowing what compromises Hecht made and obstacles he faced in bringing his work to the screen, it's easy to be glib. But there's such a discordance of tones and jostling of moods that the movie elicits diverse responses; thus some viewers have found in Specter of the Rose something special and unique. Movies, maybe more than any other art form, touch our idiosyncracies. But when we're left unsure whether the film is dead-earnest or a grandiose spoof--an election-bet of a movie--something has gone radically awry.
Murder in the Music Hall, 1946, John English,, 84, 9, 6.0
No, Virginia, this is not Radio City Music Hall and there are no dancing, kicking Rockettes in it.
horn-5 25 March 2007
And nothing in the film indicates otherwise. But it is overrun with ice-skaters and hacked-off former ice-skaters. Dang, you'd think there was only one Music Hall in the world.
This one has Lila Leighton (Vera Hruba Ralston), the lovely ice ballerina, meeting Carl Lang (Edward Norris), former ice-show producer, at his New York City penthouse apartment, from which one might have been able to see Radio City Music Hall if the film had been shot on location in New York rather then Republic Studios in the San Fernando Valley, but it wasn't. Lia refuses Lang's offer to star in his new Music Hall Ice Show--no, this isn't the Ice Capades, either--and takes her leave.
Back at "this" Music Hall, Lila discovers she has left her purse at Lang's apartment and returns there, and is followed by orchestra-leader Don Jordan (William Marshall). There, they discover that Carl has been stabbed to death, probably by somebody using a knife. Gracie (Ann Rutherford), Lila's pert-and-pretty understudy, has also followed them there (don't read too much in that), and helps them remove traces of Lila's visit, an indication that she may have left more than her purse.
They also find a pair of kid-gloves (made from a goat kid and not belonging to a human kid), and the laundry mark leads Don to Rita Morgan (Nancy Kelly), wealthy socialite, wife of George Morgan (not the singer for those who jump to assumptions), and Rita turns out to be a former ice-skating star for Carl Lang's Music Hall shows. Rita 'fesses right up about being in Lang's apartment but says he was in excellent health when she left, and says she passed no one except a blind man.
By some means or another Don and Lila discover that the "blind man" was really Rita's husband, George Morgan (Jerome Cowan), who claims he used the disguise in order to trail and protect his wife. He may or may not be guilty but in most films where Jerome Cowan appears, he either did it or he will solve it (other than in The Maltese Falcon in which, of course, he did neither. By this time, the NYC police are on the case, and with the help of Don and Lila, succeed in solving the murder.
Director John English didn't pay any attention to the urging of Associate Producer Herman Millakowsky and co-screenplay writer Laszlo Gorog to give this one a "European Touch," and, consequently, came away with 84 minutes (unless one has the TV-edited short version) of a good straight-ahead mystery meller.
The Catman of Paris, 1946, Lesley Selander,, 65, 12, 5.5
Werecat kills young ladies in 1896 Paris to maintain his immortality
snicewanger23 September 2015
The Catman of Paris sounds more a movie about a jewel thief or second story man then a monster film. Lesley Selander was Republic's go to western director and the cast has some recognizable faces but of course, no big stars. The catman is a were-creature and part of the fun is trying to guess who the shape shifter really is. Carl Esmond and Lenor Aubert are top billed and they give the proceedings a European flavor. There is bit more attention to period detail in the set and costume design then is seen in most of these little opuses.
Selander directed westerns and Catman rolls like a western. John Dehner, Anthony Caruso, and Robert J Wilkie would all go on to make their make in television westerns in the 1950's. Republic in-house eye candy Adele Mara is around to liven up the proceedings. Sherman L Loew's screenplay is a no frills and move the story along quickly affair. The FX are kept to a minimum with minimal lighting and the use of shadows and darkness in the shots to convey a creepy look while covering up the cheapness of the sets.
Catman of Paris is not going to entertain the blood, guts, and gore fanatics, but iy' an entertaining little horror-western action film that keeps you guessing until the end.
Passkey to Danger, 1946, Lesley Selander, x, 58, 5, 5.9
A typical low-budget B from Republic.
MartinHafer 27 December 2016
The star of Passkey to Danger is Kane Richmond, an actor who made a lot of B-movies as well as movie serials (such as Spy Smasher). Because of this, many folks won't recognize him and the same can be said for most of the cast. Considering this is a cheap B (clocking in at only about 57 minutes), none of these casting decisions are unusual. And, as far as the story goes, it's also pretty much what you'd expect from a low budget film of the era.
Richmond plays Tex Hanlon, an advertising man who comes up with an advertising campaign about the Three Strings...and it turns out this churns up interest in an unsolved crime from two decades ago. He has no idea what it's all about...but the baddies all think he knows a lot...and they are willing to do just about anything to get him to talk. Well, it turns out that the String Brothers were...crooks who were presumed to have died after a huge hold-up. And, if they're alive, they are worth millions and don't want anyone digging into the case.
As with many Bs, this one features some uneven acting, a bad accent and plot holes. As a result, it's mildly interesting but not much more. If you love Bs, by all means watch it. If you don't, this one won't change your mind!
Traffic in Crime, 1946, Lesley Selander,, 56, 1, 5.8
Exposing the sleaze in every city.
mark.waltz 18 March 2017
When the law and the press put their heads together to try to bring down organized crime, the men and women involved in that racket should start to plan their exit strategy. This is just a so-so view of the crackdown on organized crime and the methods that the law will take to end it. With a reporter named Sam Wire (Kane Richmond) involved in the exposure of corruption and characters named Tip, Silk and Dumbo, it's obvious that the script writer was reading a bit too much Dick Tracy comic strips and Mickey Spillane dime novels. Adele Mara continues her run of shady ladies and gets typical clichéd dialog. Anne Bagel is more on the level as a good girl who won't let anybody push her around.
Lots of scenes focus more strategy and exposition over action, giving this a very slow start. But then with lines like "Holy jumpin' Christopher!" and "You and I are going to run this town, precious", some unintentional laughs do pop up, and after a few dull reels, the typical B fast pace does start to take over. The weakness comes in the writing of the characters whose reactions are often inconsistent with their earlier actions or character traits. But even with that, Adele Mara ui fun to watch as a typical B girl, one part Ann Savage, another part Barbara Payton with a wisp of Gloria Grahame thrown in. Broads like this are fascinating to watch, because their ruthlessness knows no bounds and their destruction comes in the way that they least expected...
*Crime of the Century, 1946, Philip Ford,, 56, 3, 6.3
Not the noir of the century, though.
mark.waltz 13 August 2019
This convoluted B thriller from Republic at the height of its popularity is a messy tale of a missing business executive, a ton of lies, and a corpse on the rocks.
It's a great chance for Stephanie Bachelor and Martin Kosleck to be sinister, and for Mary Currier to be wacko. She's the aunt of pretty Betty Shaw who is searching for her missing father with the help of an ex-con (Michael Browne) who is searching for his newspaper brother. Together they end up on a journey of so many details that it takes a road map to figure out where the party is going, that is until the last real when everything is conveniently wrapped up.
It's a handsome looking film, but the script is muddled and the characters vague. The sequence where they come across a corpse covered in ice brings on laughter, not shock. The sophisticated Bachelor, the wicked Kosleck and the bizarre Currier are fascinating, but when you root for the bad guys over the heroes, it makes for an awkward film to watch.
The Inner Circle, 1946, Philip Ford,, 57, 21, 6.1
"Things are getting muddier all the time..."
classicsoncall 28 May 2011
The current reviews for The Inner Circle on this board are about evenly divided, so I'll put my two cents in on the side of the positives. I thought the picture was better than it had a right to be given the usual cheapo treatment given these B programmers of the era. The hook for me occurred right in the opening scene introducing Johnny Strange of Action Incorporated in unusual fashion utilizing his business ad in the local phone directory. But it got better, when beautiful blonde Geraldine Smith (Adele Mara) answers a want-ad in progress from Johnny Strange himself (Warren Douglas), hanging up the phone and hiring herself on the spot. What Miss Smith was soon to learn was that "being secretary to Johnny Strange is no picnic...".
For a film coming in at under an hour, this one sure has a lot of characters, understandable given the nature of the story. It's necessary to spread the murder suspects around to keep the viewer guessing--thus it's not until half way into the picture that we learn that the murder victim (a gossip personality on radio) had a blackmail sideline going for him to supplement his income. A hundred grand to keep a senator's daughter out of the headlines seems like a pricey sum to me for 1946, but hey, any politician worth his weight could probably have come up with it. Alas, the blackmailer was eight-sixed before he could start recirculating the loot, which creates its own form of free-for-all. The likely suspects include a torch singer (Virginia Christine), a housekeeper (Dorothy Adams), the gardener (Will Wright), and secretary extraordinaire Miss Smith herself.
In order to solve the case, Johnny Strange pulls a page out of the Charlie Chan play book, and brings all the suspects together for a live radio broadcast to smoke out the killer. Even with Johnny's explanation of how he was able to put it all together, it doesn't ring quite true, but despite that The Inner Circle winds up as a nifty little time-filler with an entertaining cast of characters. We musn't forget William Frawley as the luckless detective, exhibiting some of the traits that would make him the Ricardo's favorite neighbor a few years down the road.
*The Invisible Informer, 1946, Philip Ford,, 57, 0, 7.4
[no IMDB reviews]
An aristocratic but destitute southern family attempts to swindle an insurance company by faking the theft of a valuable emerald necklace. The company assigns operatives Eve Rogers and Mike Regan to the case. Eve is nearly strangled by the scion of the family before being rescued by Mike.
The Last Crooked Mile†, 1946, Philip Ford,, 67, 6, 6.4
Ann Savage redeems overcrowded crime programmer
bmacv17 February 2003
During a police chase, three bank robbers perish when their getaway car plunges over a cliff. The 300-large they grabbed, however, can't be found. The bank's underwriters hire cocky private eye Donald Barry to find it, promising a 10-percent reward if he's successful. The trail leads him to an oceanside amusement park, where the `death car' has been purchased as an exhibit in the side show; a couple of thugs show interest in it, too, as well they might, since the missing cash has been soldered into the running board.
His quest also leads Barry to a nearby nightclub where shantoozie Ann Savage warbles in sequins. (It's a good career choice for Savage, whose bold features suggest two other famed singers of the time: LaVerne Andrews, of the sister act, and Astrid Varnay, the Wagnerian soprano). He enlists her help, despite the fact that corpses drop into seats on the roller-coaster (which, oddly, turns into a tunnel of love) and big black sedans keep trying to run them down. The body count continues to rise....
The movie comes from the El Cheapo unit at Republic Pictures, and was directed by Philip Ford. Like Ford's The Mysterious Mr. Valentine (and most other crime programmers of the 1940s), it tries to cram an overcomplicated plot into not much more than an hour, patching up the holes with explanatory dialogue whizzing by. But, also like Mr. Valentine, it has an evocative look--especially of the amusement park at night--and it has Ann Savage. All in all, that's not a bad deal.
Rapid-fire hidden gem
goblinhairedguy10 March 2004
This nifty, fast-paced B mystery, based on a radio play (as were many superior second features of the time) is a nice surprise from Republic Studios. It features original situations and plenty of fancy patter, some of it slightly risqué for the time (obviously, the production code mavens were more diligent in scrutinizing the A product than these minor programmers). Lightweight leading man Don "Red" Barry, with the wavy hair and tenor voice, gives as good as he takes (he also sports one of the most outrageous wide ties in memory), and B movie icon Ann Savage has a sizable role as a slinky cabaret singer who may know more than she lets on. Connoisseurs will appreciate the parade of offbeat character turns by vets like Irving Bacon, Sheldon Leonard, and especially Tom Dugan in a little deadpan bit as a sarcastic souvenir salesman.
The photography is suitably shadowy, the carnival background sleazy, and there are some clever editing tricks. Obscure director Phil Ford, who was John Ford's nephew (and Francis Ford's son), certainly takes advantage of his studio's affinity for serials, emphasizing reckless car chases and a wild ride aboard a roller-coaster. (By the way, reliable historian Tom Weaver claims that Phil was often more interesting than both John and Francis!) If you like this one, try the similar No Hands on the Clock, from Paramount's splendid B-movie mill.
The Mysterious Mr. Valentine, 1946, Philip Ford,, 56, 6, 6.3
Noir-influenced Republic programmer can't quite live up to its terrific opening
bmacv 11 November 2002
The Mysterious Mr. Valentine packs a whole truckload of plot into its first few minutes. A sudden blowout forces a young woman (Linda Stirling) off a deserted road late at night; a tumbledown factory nearby holds the only prospect for help. A chemist inside seems distracted, even nervous, as well he might, since a body that was lying in the back laboratory amid the flasks and retorts has up and vanished. Nonetheless, he produces a bottle (of hooch) to offer Stirling a hospitable drink. Suddenly, as they toast, the door bursts open and a flashbulb goes off; the chemist's wife, it seems, has her suspicions. Scared witless, Stirling bolts outside and tears off in the nearest car, only to run a man down. But we know something that she does not: It's the corpse that was in the back room....
Too bad the rest of the movie, a Republic crime programmer, doesn't live up to its breakneck opening. It looks surprisingly good, though, with a noirish fondness for crisp, intricate shadows. The story involves a brash, smart-mouthed private eye (William Henry) who tries to help Stirling locate the "Mr. Valentine" who's blackmailing her about the hit-and-run with a series of unsettling phone calls. The clean cinematography, unfortunately, belies a muddy plot, with more characters and subplots than its brevity can accommodate. It still generates a passing amount of fun and suspense, and stands as an example of how the light mystery programmers so popular in the late1930s came to take on the more freighted style of the late 1940s.
From Steve-O’s Noir of the Week site, by Wheeler Winston Dixon
Republic Pictures was most famous for its Saturday morning serials, but also churned out a long series of 60-minute programmers in a variety of genres. Among the most interesting, and certainly the most curious, of these brief films is Philip Ford’s The Mysterious Mr. Valentine. Republic’s noirs were always fatalistic, dense, and claustrophobic, and the first minutes of The Mysterious Mr. Valentine are so crammed with narrative coincidence as to almost defy description. Philip Ford (1900-1976, the son of actor/director Francis Ford and the nephew of the celebrated director John Ford, was just one of many unsung craftsmen who worked at Republic in the 1940s, and his other films during this period were mostly program westerns. But when given a darker subject to deal with, Ford often rose to the occasion.
The film opens up with a whirlwind of narrative frenzy, and then never lets up until its final moments. While driving home on a lonely road late at night, a young woman, Janet Spencer (Republic regular Linda Stirling) has an unexpected flat tire. Walking along the dimly lit road, Janet sights a chemical factory. Entering the building, Janet discovers research chemist John Armstrong (Tristram Coffin), and asks permission to use his telephone to call a garage. Unbeknownst to Janet, John Armstrong has just murdered his partner, and left the body in the back room. While Janet is on the phone trying to get help, Armstrong returns to the back room to discover that the body of his supposed victim has disappeared.
To relax his nerves, Armstrong suggests to Janet that they both have a drink. Moments later, Armstrong’s wife and a police photographer break into the factory and photograph Janet and Armstrong in a seemingly compromising position. Janet flees, stealing Armstrong’s wife’s car. Driving away at high speed, Janet is blinded by the glare of oncoming headlights, and accidentally runs down a pedestrian. The driver of the other car emerges with an associate and offers to dispose of the body at the local hospital, telling Janet to go home and forget the whole thing. Frantic, Janet drives wildly through the streets in the stolen vehicle, sideswiping the car of private eye Steve Morgan (William Henry). Returning at last to her home, Janet discovers the first of a series of blackmail notes from a “Mr. Valentine,” demanding $25,000 for the return of her car, and for not implicating her in the hit and run fatality.
That’s just the first six minutes of this 56-minute wonder, which grows more complex with each passing second. In Janet’s quest to extricate herself from the blackmail plot, she enlists the help of Steve Morgan, who has followed her home to collect on the damages to his car. However, Steve operates on the thinnest edge of the law, playing off the protagonists against each other in a series of jaw dropping triple-crosses. These deceptions are all the more disturbing because of the breezy self-assurance with which Steve lies to each character to preserve his own interests.
As Steve weaves his way through the increasingly Byzantine case, he repeatedly informs his prospective victims “You know, I could use you...I mean, as a client.” At last, after numerous plot twists, insurance agent Sam Priestley (Kenne Duncan) is unmasked as the mysterious Mr. Valentine; the whole affair has been an elaborate insurance scam. In a final moment of what can only be described as heterotropic insanity, Janet agrees to marry Steve, despite the fact that he has been working against her interests (or, perhaps more accurately, only in his own interests) throughout the entire film.
The Republic lot occasionally served as a production facility for John Ford, Fritz Lang, and other “A” list directors, but the bulk of their output consisted of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry westerns, the aforementioned children’s serials, and a modest series of program pictures. Yet the superior production capabilities of Republic lent a sheen to even their most pedestrian work, and ofte managed to retain the true fatalism inherent in the noir genre. The Mysterious Mr. Valentine is a one-of-a-kind film, and certainly a valuable addition to the 1940s noir canon.
The Undercover Woman, 1946, Thomas Carr,, 56, 3, 6.3
The combination of mystery and comedy makes for a gay old time in the wild west...among society folk.
mark.waltz 19 March 2017
The sudden blow out of a tire creates two city girls to become car thieves, not realizing that the car they stole belonged to a notorious gangster. Having just been captured by the local sheriff (Robert Livingston), the unseen crook is only mentioned as the means that private detective Stephanie Bachelor gets to meet Livingston. As guests of the wealthy Helene Heigh, Bachelor and her wise-cracking partner (Isabel Withers) are out to get information on her shady husband (Richard Fraser). A bullet quickly takes care of Fraser, pairing bickering Bachelor and Livingston in league to expose the killer.
The antics of bit actress Isabel Withers in one of her only major parts is the highlight of this above average programmer. The moment she pops up on screen, I could swear that I was hearing Agnes Moorehead, and indeed, Withers could pass for her older sister. Elaine Laing, who plays Fraser's obvious mistress, has a strong resemblance to Lauren Bacall, although her hair is much darker. Bachelor, who played mostly nasty dames and often became a victim because of her character's bitchiness, plays against type and is very amusing. Livingston is very funny, especially trying to fool Bachelor into thinking that there are gun firing criminals inside the house where Bachelor found the car. One of the better B Republic second stringers, this moves along briskly and combines mystery and comedy, melodramatic outbursts and plenty of tension to keep you hooked.
The Glass Alibi, 1946, W. Lee Wilder,, 68, 3, 6.4
Good twist ending, but not worth waiting for
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre 9 March 2004<
The Glass Alibi is a no-budget grade-Z film noir, featuring a clever double-twist ending that I genuinely didn't anticipate.
I'll credit actor Douglas Fowley with one of the greatest film performances I've ever seen, as the excitable silent-film director in Singin' in the Rain. Most of Fowley's many, many other film performances are too small to require much acting ability. In The Glass Alibi, although third-billed, he has the lead role...and his part is large enough to prove that he's a lousy actor when he hasn't got a first-rate script and direction. Fowley gives a one-note performance here as a cynical newspaperman.
Paul Kelly is one of those character actors whose real life is more interesting than the characters he played. Kelly tended to play incorruptible authority figures, but was more believable in rare outings such as The Roaring Twenties, in which he played a violent and utterly amoral criminal. In real life, Kelly spent two years in prison for manslaughter. Here, he plays an honest homicide detective who has known Fowley since boyhood.
The most interesting credit in this movie is the director: W. Lee Wilder, in this film and others, showed mostly latent talent as a director…yet he was the older brother of Billy Wilder, one of the most important scripters/directors in the history of film. Apparently the brothers never got along: Billy often claimed that his entire family had been killed by the Nazis (which might have been his way of denying W. Lee's existence). In the entire running time of The Glass Alibi, there is only one bit of directorial cleverness. Early in the film, a tight close-up shows Anne Gwynne on the phone, assuring her gangster boyfriend that she still loves him--while the camera pulls back to reveal Doug Fowley's head on her lap!
Maris Wrixon (nice face, nice figure, hideous name) plays a millionairess with only six months to live. Her performance is warm and vivacious, which is part of the problem: she shows no bitterness, none of the behavioral traits of the terminally ill described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Wrixon's character has got one of those old-movie diseases that enables her to stay good-looking and energetic while assuring us that her days are numbered. When Fowley pretends to be romantically interested in her, Wrixon doesn't consider that he might have ulterior motives for marrying her.
Anne Gwynne, whom I normally equate with good-girl roles, is splendid here as a tough tootsie. She performs one long scene in a tight-fitting dress that had me hoping she would sneeze.
This film has NO production budget! When the radio stations in this movie aren't broadcasting police bulletins, they're all playing classical music (public-domain; no copyright problems). Homicide cop Kelly works out of a room that looks like a bank executive's office, with a secretary at a separate desk: the filmmakers clearly weren't able to afford a convincing squad-room set. There are a couple of good lines of thick-ear dialogue: "While he's on ice, we'll be dancing at La Paree."
After Fowley marries Wrixon with the intention of inheriting her millions, he decides she isn't croaking fast enough. He and Gwynne cook up a James M. Cain scheme to bump her off.
I said there was a clever double-twist ending. That's half right. The first twist completely surprised me; it was unexpected yet utterly plausible. But after that one hit me, the second twist was obvious. There are good performances by George Chandler (as a bartender who vaguely symbolizes destiny) and by Victor Potel as a gas-station attendant whom Fowley deliberately aggravates, so that Potel will remember him later and provide an unwitting alibi. Alas, Paul Kelly phones in his performance; he should have stuck to playing villains.
The French Key, 1946, Walter Colmes,, 64, 3, 6.3
French key, Spanish coins: good American B entry
Mike-764 23 November 2007
Johnny Fletcher and Sam Cragg have skipped on their board bill and try to sneak into their room to get their trunks, when they find a corpse on their bed clutching an old Spanish coin. Fletcher being a pseudo-detective learns the nature of the coin from a numismatist named Vedder, but learns that he is mixed up some way with the murder. Apparently the murdered man was mixed up with a gold smuggling outfit where the coins were actually stolen gold forged into the rare coins. However Fletcher has to find out the murderer and how & where the stolen gold is located.
This is a very enjoyable B mystery aided especially but the witty dialogue by Frank Gruber, who also wrote the novel the story is based on. Its a shame however that Republic didn't decide to continue the series. Dekker and Mazurki are obviously enjoying themselves in the picture and Dekker does add a sophisticated touch to what could have been an ordinary urbane role. The movie moves nicely but the end Dekker's character does seem to change to a more hardboiled sleuth than the fly by the seat-of-the-pants character he was. A good B-repertoire cast (Evelyn Ankers, Byron Foulger especially) make this an enjoyable hour plus.
The Madonna’s Secret, 1946, William Thiele, x, 79, 14, 6.5
Who is killing Corbin's models??
MartinHafer 17 February 2019
The Madonna's Secret is a pretty good film. Had it offered more red herrings and possibilities, it would have been even better.
James Corbin (Francis Lederer) is a famous painter who is hiding out in America. Why is he hiding? Because back in Europe one of his models was murdered and he was tried for this crime. Although acquitted, his reputation has been ruined. He is still painting however and once again he's fallen in love with his model...and she soon is found dead!! Once again he's arrested but they have to release him because he had an alibi. But a reporter insists that Corbin in guilty and convinces the recently murdered model's sister (Ann Rutherford) to become the next model to get the goods on Corbin. However, she and another model both soon fall in love with the guy! Are they destined to die as well? And, most importantly, who is doing this and why?
I think the plot was very, very clever and I enjoyed the movie. But it had a few things that should have been done a bit better. First, having Rutherford's character fall in love so easily, considering her sister just died and he might have done it, seemed unbelievable. Second, there just weren't many possible killers introduced during the course of the movie and I correctly guessed their identity almost immediately. A few red herrings definitely would have added to the suspense. Still, despite a few problems here and there, a dandy picture.
"I wish there was a path through the jungle"
hwg1957-102-265704 17 June 2017
James Harlan Corbin is an artist with a troubled temperament. Unfortunately several models whom he has painted have been murdered. Has he done them in or is there another explanation--and just what is the significance of the painting called "The Madonna's Secret"? The actual significance is that it gives the ending away early if one thinks about it. This is a fair mystery story but no more. There are noirish elements but on the whole it is more a melodrama.
Frances Lederer is suitably tortured as Corbin and John Litel is his usual reliable self as the police lieutenant. There is a fine trio of actresses in Gail Patrick, Ann Rutherford and Linda Stirling but their parts are underwritten. They deserved more meaty roles.
The cinematography by John Alton is great, giving it a moody, often inky look that makes one surprised to discover it is a Republic picture.
Exposed, 1947, George Blair, x, 59, 8, 5.8
Watchable Low Budget Programmer
gordonl56 2 January 2014
This one is a Republic Pictures quickie with the always ravishing, Adele Mara, as a private-eye. Mara played many a damsel in distress, femme fatale or general all round babe in 60 films between 1941 and 1950. Here, in a real change of pace role, Mara plays a female version of a hard-boiled, wise cracking private detective.
A rich industrialist type, Russell Hicks, pays Mara a visit at her office looking for a P.I. Though somewhat at a loss for words after discovering the detective is a woman, he hires her. Hicks explains that he thinks his step-son Mark Roberts might be in some sort of trouble. Roberts is withdrawing large amounts of cash from the family business without any explanation.
Mara agrees to take the job and arranges to meet Roberts at Hick's home that afternoon. When she arrives, there is a more than slight problem, Hicks has been murdered. The Police are summoned and the Inspector assigned turns out to be Mara's father, Robert Armstrong. Armstrong of course is not at all pleased with daughter Mara's choice of profession.
Suspects and red herrings abound as Mara and her assistant William Hadde, sift through the clues. In the mix beside Roberts, is his sister, Adrian Booth, the butler, Harry Shannon, the family doctor, Colin Campbell, the shady company lawyer, Charles Evans, the ex-business partner, Paul Burns, gangster, Bob Steele and Edward Gargan as a less than helpful drunk.
Everyone seems to have a motive for the killing, or at least for helping to cover for the killer. Who did, or is going to do what, to who, is the theme here. First the coroner says it is murder, then suicide, then a heart attack and finally back to murder. There are plenty of snappy lines traded here between Mara and the various suspects.
The only real problem with this film is that there is really too much story. They cram far too much dialogue into the plot. This cuts down to a degree on the action, which for Republic film fans, is one of the reasons they watch these low renters. There is one good knock down fist fight between Bob Steele and William Haade.
But with a runtime of only 59 minutes, it still moves along more than fast enough.
The director here is Republic regular, George Blair. Blair helmed several very under-rated low rent crime/film-noirs. These include POST OFFICE INVESTIGATOR, UNMASKED, FEDERAL AGENT AT LARGE, INSURANCE INVESTIGATOR, LONELY HEART BANDITS and SECRETS OF MONTE CARLO.
While not a world-beater by any means, if you take it as the programmer it is, it will pass the time nicely on a rainy afternoon. If you want to see Miss Mara in full-tilt femme fatale mode, hunt up 1945's THE TIGER WOMAN. (Not to be confused with the 1944 serial of the same name)
The Trespasser, 1947, George Blair,, 71, 3, 6.2
Journalism by the book.
mark.waltz 17 December 2020
This complex Republic mystery is very unique in its subject matter and the characters involved with the story and the avant-garde way it plays out. The plot revolves around a rather upper class newspaper (that seems more like a ritzy literary magazine) where there seems to be a scheme to forge first edition books to make them seem antique. This starts off almost like a comedy with a rather bizarre prank played on a hopeful young journalist Janet Martin who is perhaps a bit too bold, and she ends up investigating the car accident that leads to one of the primary player's deaths, possibly a murder.
Warren Douglas, one of the top journalists on the staff, is engaged to nightclub singer Dale Evans, sister of colleague William Bakewell whom he hates. There's also the managing morgue reporter (Douglas Fowley), secretary Adele Mara and managing editor Francis Pierlot who has a love for old books but apparently unaware of the fakes he has in his collection. It gets pretty complicated at times with the switching in moods and a subject that most people wouldn't be familiar with.
In spite of all that, this is one of Republic's most lavish 40's films not to star their queen (Vera Ralston), and it's a refreshing switch for cowgirl Evans, glamorously dressed, but not really the lead in spite of top billing. With elements of a light film noir and some sparky dialog, this seems influenced by the literary devices of The Big Sleep. Well worth seeking out.
The Flame†, 1947, John H. Auer,, 97, 6, 6.6
Blackmailing the blackmailer.
MartinHafer 14 December 2019
The Flame stars John Carroll, a second-tier actor who made a living mostly playing sleazy or cocky guys. In many ways, he's Republic studio's answer to Dan Duryea. In the second lead is Vera Ralston, the girlfriend of the head of the studio that made the picture. While her Czech accent was problematic, she was pretty good in this movie...although she has a reputation as a terrible actress who only got to where she did because of her connections. Regardless, she's good in this picture.
The story begins with George (Carroll) shooting someone to death. In the process, he himself is shot. Soon, he phones the police to report the killing...and then the film goes into flashback mode where it stays most of the picture. Oddly, occasionally the viewpoint changes from his to his ex-girlfriend (Ralston)...something that seems sloppy when they both address the camera. In other words, is it his story to tell or hers? Regardless, the tale is about blackmail and it's an odd case where another blackmailer discovers the blackmail and begins to blackmail the original blackmailer! What exactly is going on here? Watch the film.
Despite the changing narration and Ralston's odd accent (she's supposed to be French...but just sounds Czech), the plot is quite engaging and the film is very well written considering it comes from Republic, a studio mostly known for B-movies--and mostly with cowboys. It is a very unique film...one that is excellent for folks who want to see something gritty and different.
By the way, although Victor Sen Yung was not a big-time actor, mostly assigned to secondary roles such as playing sons for Charlie Chan, here he really showed his talents in a scene late in the movie. A tiny scene, but an amazingly well-acted one.
Is This The Dame Who Is Known As 'The Flame'?
boblipton25 May 2020
John Carroll has spent all his inherited money and now lives on what his brother, Robert Paige gives him. He's a good egg, and when Carroll fell ill, Paige hired nurse Vera Ralston for him. They fell in love and were going to be married, until she changed her mind and married Paige. Now here's Broderick Crawford, blackmailing Carroll lest he Tell All.
Under director John Auer, this one hits almost all the Film Noir tags: movie told mostly in flashback, femme fatale--although Mrs. Herbert Yates, as she was known when the credits weren't rolling, is one of those inadvertent types who changes her mind more or less honestly, perhaps--quirky angles, dark lighting (except no Venetian blinds, for some reason). It's also well acted, except for Mrs. Yates, who remains wooden and whining in her performance. Republic was quite capable of footing the bill on a pretty good movie, and did so, except for the female lead. Her husband wanted to make her a star, despite a lack of interest in anyone not on his payroll. The result is pretty good anyway.
Blackmail, 1947, Lesley Selander,, 67, 8, 5.9
Don't move sweetheart, this thing doesn't shoot marshmallows!
XhcnoirX30 June 2016
Private detective William Marshall is hired by wealthy playboy Ricardo Cortez to look into who's blackmailing him. During their talks, someone is snooping around. After a brawl and Marshall knocked out on the floor the intruder runs off but is shot, with Cortez holding the smoking gun. But once Marshall calls in the cops, the corpse has disappeared and Cortez and his girl Adele Mara claim there never was a corpse. Reluctantly Marshall continues working for Cortez and starts digging at his favorite casino, run by Roy Barcroft. There he finds out torch singer Stephanie Bachelor was blackmailing Cortez, for not giving her a shot on the radio as he had promised. She has snapshots of Cortez and her in compromising positions. But before they can pay her off to get the photos back, she ends up dead. The blackmailing doesn't stop however, and Marshall has to dig deep to help Cortez.
Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, was a character created by prolific pulp author Robert Leslie Bellem (with an estimated 3000 stories to his name/pseudonyms!). He was a true pulp author, mostly known/remembered for his creative use of hard-boiled language. I highly recommend checking out some of his short stories, they're true pulp but a lot of fun to read in an almost campy way. I don't know if Republic meant for this movie to test the waters for a Dan Turner series of movies, but that never happened. Which is unfortunate, despite the many flaws, the movie's a lot of fun. The fistfights are fun and exciting (and make use of/destroy every piece of furniture in sight), the one-liners are hilarious, and there is even a true femme fatale.
Marshall wasn't exactly the most talented actor; his private life was much more interesting (his wives include Michele Morgan and Ginger Rogers!), but he does okay enough here. He comes off a bit like Ralph Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly, shooting one-liners left and right from the hip, but lacking Meeker's bravado and swagger. He's also the first detective who can handle himself in a fistfight, but passes out when he's pushed into a pool. RicardonCortez is perfectly cast in the suave playboy role, and Adele Mara is also quite good (though her role is too small given the importance of her femme fatale character).
Director Lesley Selander (Passkey To Danger) and Reggie Lanning (Strangers In The Night) have tons of B-features to their name, and their professionalism shows. For a low-budget feature, this movie looks quite good. It's in the plot department that it really falls apart, however: too much happens and too much relies on coincidence, with some parts not making much sense, rendering the movie less than memorable. But I don't care, I had fun with it. Heck, I'll give this one a rewatch just for the one-liners ("Take your mitt of your mutt"). Extra point(s) for the fun factor...
The Pretender, 1947, W. Lee Wilder,, 69, 10, 6.5
The madness of one's mind is the great destroyer.
mark.waltz 21 November 2020
If you can get past the garish wallpaper in wealthy Catherine Craig's huge home, you might find something interesting in regards to the sets of this interesting art deco film noir. Perhaps the wallpaper is meant to represent the muddled thoughts going through the mind of Albert decker, but since he's not the one to have picked it out, that doesn't seem possible.
He's the troubled financial adviser to the wealthy Craig whom he marries on a spur of the moment mad moment, and from there becomes paranoid over the possibility that someone is out to get him. Considering some of the slime ball characters he's had business dealings with, that's not really all that far-fetched and it takes a while to figure out what's behind his maddening behavior.
Eerie sci-fi style music populates the score in the more tense scenes and seems to be driving Dekker crazier along with his paranoia. This is a film that seems at first to be going in one direction, then completely fooling the viewer as it twists off onto a side road to go in a totally different direction.
Alan Carney, best known for B comedies along with Wally Brown as a second rate Abbott and Costello, does well as a sleazy nightclub operator, and Charles Middleton is effectively creepy in a small role as one of Craig's butlers. But it is Dekker's performance and the dizzying photography and direction that makes this intriguing, leading to a tense conclusion. Somehow, however, there's something missing to tie it all together in a totally convincing way.
from Dan Stumpf at MYSTERY*FILE
I read someplace that film noir was a genre in which even lesser talents could shine, a premise borne out convincingly by this film, because if ever there were a definitive Lesser Talent, it was surely Billy Wilder’s brother: William “W. Lee” Wilder.
In fact, The Pretender isn’t bad at all, and in places it’s surprisingly good, coming from the auteur of Killers from Space and The Man Without a Body.
Albert Dekker’s usual noir persona was as the Criminal Boss a little too intelligent for his own good, to be brought down by his less-mentally-encumbered underlings in films like Suspense, The Killers, and Kiss Me Deadly. Here he’s an investment broker who’s been pilfering from a client (Catherine Craig) and plots to cover the theft by marrying her.
But it Ms Craig has marital plans of her own, and is about to be engaged to Charles Drake. Dekker doesn’t know the identity of her prospective fiancé, but figures if he can put whoever it is out of action, he can catch Craig on the rebound. And he knows a guy (Alan Carney, just split from his godawful comedy-team-up with Wally Brown at RKO) who knows a guy who can eliminate the inconvenient beau—if Dekker can tell him who it is.
Here’s where Don Martin’s script gets tricky. Dekker arranges for Carney’s hit man to rub out the rival when his name and picture show up in the Society Column. Whereupon fickle Ms Craig has a change of heart and elopes with Dekker--who then finds his own name and picture in the papers!
I’ve mentioned Martin before, in connection with the movie Arrow in the Dust (which, come to think of it, also deals with mistaken identity) and he does a fine job here of fleshing out the characters, laying the groundwork for plot twists, and papering over the implausibilities.
When it comes to establishing mood, though, I must tip the hat to cinematographer John Alton, whose work includes The Big Combo, Reign of Terror, He Walked by Night, and big-budget things like Elmer Gantry and The Brothers Karamazov. Alton fills the screen with striking compositions, looming shadows and those just-slightly-strange lighting effects that can cast an eerie atmosphere into an otherwise mundane moment.
This off-beat approach extends to the casting, with Dekker going from stodgy to desperate quite convincingly. Charles Drake projects his usual bluff nothingness, and he does it well. Christine Craig is really quite good as the middle-aged socialite bent on marriage, but the big surprise is Alan Carney, as the sleazy middle-man for murder. There’s just something about his performance here that makes you wonder how a fat man like him crawled out from under a rock. Add serial queen Linda Stirling in a showy part as a vengeful moll, and you have a colorful ensemble indeed.
It’s a combination even a mostly flat-footed director like Wilder can’t mess up, and The Pretender comes off as an enjoyable, even memorable noir worthy of your attention.